Stephen Rowland: Finding Martin Luther King's timeless message amid racial strife today

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Stephen Rowland’s column appears Wednesdays in The Daily Herald.
Stephen Rowland’s column appears Wednesdays in The Daily Herald.

As I sit here this morning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day penning this article, I am reflecting on how this icon of the civil rights movement must surely be rolling over in his grave to see how anxiety, anger, unforgiveness and race hatred are being whipped up ostensibly in support of his cause, on his day.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been all over the news for at least a year. Liberals claim conservatives are afraid of teaching about slavery, Jim Crow laws and racism in America (which they vehemently deny).

Conservatives claim CRT advocates push the “all whites are racists” mantra, while advocating for Marxism, reparations, and wholesale release of prisoners from prisons, which of course many of them will deny. For a while, professional educators were hotly denying that CRT was being taught in public classrooms, that is until the public saw an educator’s webcast in California specifically explaining how to discuss CRT in classrooms.

Then the teacher labor unions got in on the debate, promising to defend teachers who were accused of teaching CRT amid state laws that were being passed, criminalizing the teaching of CRT. Why would labor unions get involved if it wasn’t being taught? The ruse was over; of course elements of CRT were being taught.

Our Tennessee legislature banned the teaching of CRT on May 5, 2021.

There have been some pretty devastating critiques of CRT from notable black Americans. An example would be pastor Corey Brooks, who is currently on his 58th day of his 100 Day Rooftop Vigil on the south side of Chicago in an effort to increase public awareness for the need to reduce violence in the streets.

Brooks lists three damaging beliefs that CRT teaches:

1. “An individual’s race is his or her defining trait — nothing is more important than one’s race.” By contrast, Christianity teaches that “the most important relationship is the one we have with Jesus Christ, and that relationship comes with the proper understanding of who we are: children of God.”

2. “The second lie is that there is an enduring power struggle because most people are racist to their core.” That goes directly against Christianity’s teaching against being judgmental without evidence making unfounded assumptions.

3. “The third big lie is that capitalism is a form of white supremacy … according to critical race theory, capitalism excludes blacks.” With that conception, there really is no incentive for young black men to find jobs and participate in our economy.

Pastor Brooks believes that a main objective of CRT is to stir up Marxist grievances, which leads to class warfare. This pastor has developed a very successful inner city project named “Project H.O.O.D.” (Helping Others Obtain Destiny). This community-based program offers job training programs; entrepreneurships; counseling; and homework help. Former gang members have found employment in fields like construction through this program.

Pastor Brooks emphasizes the Christian principal of “Teach people to love their neighbors regardless of race.” (“Rooftop Revelations: on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pastor Brooks rejects three critical race theory lies” by Eli Steele, Jan. 17, 2022 on FoxNews).

I don’t like it that the “Rev.” is usually omitted from the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day” holiday designation. He was a Christian; he was a pastor — and I think a lot of folks on the left want to downplay that fact. His Christian principles propelled him into action in the Civil Rights movement. He quoted scripture often.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, evangelist Alveda King, laments the fact that “people would rather hear the social message than the gospel message” in an article entitled “Alveda King reveals how to be more like Martin Luther King Jr in 2022” on FoxNews, Jan. 17, 2022.

She emphasized how her uncle learned to forgive; learned to ask for forgiveness; learned to keep hope alive; sought to get rid of fear, anxiety, anger and hatred; and remained optimistic. She said one of her uncle’s favorite sayings was that “hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.” Alveda makes the point that we don’t have to be colorblind and ignore ethnicity and history, but neither should we be judgmental based on color. She gives the example of a white piece of paper and a lump of charcoal — color is mainly a social construct concerning race — “So everyone has some type of color, and we have to understand that we all are human beings, and we all are created in the image and likeness of God.”

Now, as we become more familiar with the tenants of CRT, ask yourself: How much does CRT emphasize being nonjudgmental; forgiveness; getting rid of anger; being optimistic; looking for the best in people of all races; being loving; promoting social harmony? Answer: not much, more often, the opposite.

I think the first black woman ever elected to be Lt. Governor in the capital of the former Confederacy, the state of Virginia, (Winsome Sears) said it best: “Too many of our political leaders use race to divide us.”

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Stephen Rowland: Finding Martin Luther King's timeless message amid racial strife today

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